A celebration of tea and food

I attended a tea gathering titled 茶的饗宴 or A Banquet of Tea during the middle of May 2018 in Taipei. Compared to Toronto where spring had just begun and flowers started to bloom, it was already very hot in Taipei City. Although there was no dress code for this event, I put on a white linen crew neck blouse to align with the white colour code observed by students of Hsieh Xiao Man 謝小曼 during the month of May.

The venue of the event was located on the fourth floor of a residential building right next door to 小慢 Xiao Man Whole Food Tea Experience, a retail space owned and operated by teacher 小曼 Xiao Man.

When I arrived at the venue, which was generally used by teacher Xiao Man for all her classes related to the art of tea, the two hostesses including Xiao Man and her friend Chef Dana Yu were greeting guests. Xiao Man had hosted many tea events in Taipei, Tokyo, Kyoto and Shanghai. Chef Dana had worked at many top restaurants in Taipei including L’Atelier Joël Robuchon. This event marked the first collaboration between the two to pair food with tea in Taipei.

When I entered the tearoom with five other guests, I immediately relaxed after seeing a large piece of ice with tender green tea leaves placed in a container on top of a large tropical leaf. This centerpiece not only helped to give a sense of coolness to the guests during a hot afternoon. It also set the tone for the guests to expect a feast for the senses.

The banquet commenced with a carbonated green tea followed by a chilled infusion of Korean plum flower and water served in elegant tulip-shaped stem glasses. The first dish was a panna cotta with pineapple, passion fruit, mango and grapefruit served in glass bowl on a pastel pink glass dish.


A set of cute little ceramic teapots with bulky-looking lids in different sizes and matching cups greeted us next. They were all handmade by a local ceramic artist named 李雅雯 Lee Ya Wen. The pots, which contained a cold wulong tea infusion 中國鳳凰單欉 (蜜蘭香) China Fèng Huáng Dān Cóng (honey orchid aroma) were presented to each guest to pick the one they liked. Afterwards, the second dish was a white wine and vanilla poached peach served with lychee fruit and raspberry sorbet. 

Two different teas were served consecutively. The first was a Taiwan high mountain white tea prepared with honey using the whipping method. The tea was served in a pink frosted glass bowl handcrafted by Japanese glass artist 辻和美 Kazumi Tsuji. The second tea was the melting green tea ice from the centerpiece. The infusion of a wildly-grown green tea from Anhui province, China was drained into a wide and shallow aluminum kettle for serving into small sake glasses. 


The third dish was a pan fried sticky rice cake with a mushroom filling. That was followed by an infusion of 台灣包種茶 Taiwan Bāo Zhǒng Chá from the year 1990 with hot water. A houhin handcrafted by a local ceramic artist 羅翌慎 Luo Yi Shen was used for infusion. The tea was served into ancient porcelain wine glasses from China. We were then presented with a bowl of white fungus with grapefruit and mochi served in a sweet lemon soup. 

The next dish was foie gras served with white asparagus and poached egg. This was paired with a black/fermented tea 中國千兩茶. The tea was prepared using the boiled method and served into a wooden bowls. 

The final pairing started off with a frozen infusion of a smoked red/fully oxidized tea from Japan with a piece of dried rose bud. A hot wulong tea infusion of 台灣東方美人 Taiwan Oriental Beauty was added to the glass of frozen infusion before it was served to the guests. This tea was followed by two sweet dishes – a crêpe with sea salt and caramel sauce, and a cherry flavoured Turkish delight paired with a tangerine flavoured chocolate. 


茶的饗宴 A Banquet of Tea was a treat for the senses! In aggregate, eight different styles of tea were creatively prepared and presented along with seven dishes of savories and sweets combining French and local flavours. 

It was a successful and remarkable attempt by the first-time collaborators to use their respective material, namely tea and food, to present the different dimensions of flavour while providing a harmonious overall experience for the guests. Unlike the pairing of tea and food which is gaining popularity in the West, each tea was presented separately from food as a unique course, allowing guests to focus entirely on enjoying the spectrum of flavour it delivered. Finally, the preparation of selected teas in front of guests further enhanced the aesthetic aspects of the overall experience. It also helped to strengthen the exchange between the host and the guests, which is the core spirit of tea gathering in my humble opinion.